The National Forest in Midlands is the first forest to be created at scale in England in 1000 years. The first tree in this rewilding initiative was planted 30 years ago and today the forest spans 200 square miles across three counties.
The forest is not only home to habitat and recreation areas, it also features coal mines and quarries which have been repurposed into parks and nature reserves. Forest coverage in the EU has increased by over 11 million hectares since 1990, and rewilding is seen as one of the most effective strategies for protecting biodiversity. However, it’s not just nature that benefits from this project. The rewilding project also helped create 5,000 jobs in the region.
Some of these jobs are at the newly-established Little Acorns Forest School. The area used to be an open cast mine, but today it offers educational programs for children of all ages as well as first aid training qualifications for the public.
The forest also features an annual festival, Timber, which brings music and arts to the forest, plus Britain’s only purpose-built eco-hostel. The hostel includes a solar hot water system, a biomass boiler which is fed with wood pellets from the surrounding forest, and rainwater collection to flush the toilets.
The successful Midlands project has inspired similar initiatives elsewhere in the UK. The North East Community Forest project aims to plant up to 500 hectares of trees by 2025.